ACM clears acquisition of Dutch bookstore chain Bruna by rival chain AKO’s parent company
Publishing house and distributor Audax has been cleared to acquire the stores of Dutch bookstore chain Bruna. The Audax Group includes rival chains The Read Shop and AKO, among other chains. Bruna and the Audax-affiliated chains sell books, magazines, office supplies, and tobacco products. Their stores often also function as points of sale for stamps, postcards, and lottery tickets. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has concluded that sufficient competition will remain after the acquisition, for example, coming from other bookstores, office supply stores, supermarkets, wholesalers, gas stations, and online stores.
The Audax-affiliated chains and Bruna are each other’s competitors. ACM has therefore assessed whether or not sufficient competition will remain after the acquisition. For example, ACM has looked at competition in the markets for books, office supplies, magazines, newspapers, and lottery tickets. In that assessment, ACM also took into account the ever growing competitive pressure exerted by online sales. ACM has concluded that, even after the acquisition, consumers will be able to buy these various products at sufficient locations. That is also the case in towns where both a Bruna and an Audax-affiliated store are already located.
In total, Audax has over 300 locations under the brand names The Read Shop, The Read Shop Express, Vivánt and Tabaronde, and AKO. Bruna owns approximately 275 locations under the brand name Bruna. Both companies are franchisers as well as operators of their own stores. In addition, Audax is active in publishing and distributing magazines, selling foreign newspapers, books and comic books, and providing logistic services.
ACM’s merger control
ACM enforces fair competition among businesses. When assessing mergers or acquisitions, ACM assesses in advance whether companies that wish to acquire or merge with another company do not gain such a strong competitive position that they are easily able to raise prices, lower quality or reduce innovation. If they can, ACM will block the transaction. That is how ACM makes sure that markets continue to work well for people and businesses.